Legislative elections will take place in November, and recent polls suggest that the center-left PSD is making a comeback following the departure of its corruption-tainted former leader, Victor Ponta, who resigned as prime minister in November 2015. Earlier in the year, the center-right PNL appeared to be in a strong position to win the upcoming elections, its momentum boosted by the surprising victory of its candidate, Klaus Iohannis, at last year’s presidential election. However, the PNL’s hopes of taking over for the technocratic administration now in charge of day-to-day governance took a beating at local elections held on June 5, at which the PSD made a surprisingly strong showing, and captured the prized mayoralty of the capital, Bucharest.
That said, with each party commanding roughly a 35% share of the vote, the eventual victor will likely require one or more support partners to establish a working majority in Parliament. With support for both ALDE and the ethnic Hungarian UDMR hovering near the 5% minimum required to qualify for parliamentary seats, a recent merger deal that saw former President Traian Basecu’s PMP absorb the UNPR creates the potential for the expanded PMP to emerge as a kingmaker in the next Parliament.
In terms of policy preferences, the PMP could conceivably form a viable partnership with either the PSD or the PNL. However, Basescu’s history of deeply antagonistic relations with both the PSD and the PNL—indeed, shared hostility toward Basescu was the main factor that enabled the PSD and the PNL to govern in partnership from May 2012 until February 2015—raises questions about whether the PMP will be able to work cooperatively with either.
Whoever takes charge next year can be assumed to pursue a pro-EU agenda, but the next government will also need to be mindful that the UK’s recent vote to leave the EU and the spreading public discontent over the wave of refugees entering Europe are likely to stoke anti-EU sentiment. The new administration will also face pressure to tighten the fiscal reins so that monetary authorities are not bearing the full burden of cooling down the economy.